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The Angola Horror : the 1867 train wreck that shocked the nation and transformed American railroads /

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Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Cornell University Press, 2013
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On December 18, 1867, the Buffalo and Erie Railroad's eastbound New York Express derailed as it approached the high truss bridge over Big Sister Creek, just east of the small settlement of Angola, New York, on the shores of Lake Erie. The last two cars of the express train were pitched completely off the tracks and plummeted into the creek bed below. When they struck bottom, one of the wrecked cars was immediately engulfed in flames as the heating stoves in the coach spilled out coals and ignited its wooden timbers. The other car was badly smashed. About fifty people died at the bottom of the gorge or shortly thereafter, and dozens more were injured. Rescuers from the small rural community responded with haste, but there was almost nothing they could do but listen to the cries of the dying--and carry away the dead and injured thrown clear of the fiery wreck. The next day and in the weeks that followed, newspapers across the country carried news of the "Angola Horror," one of the deadliest railway accidents to that point in U.S. history.

In a dramatic historical narrative, Charity Vogel tells the gripping, true-to-life story of the wreck and the characters involved in the tragic accident. Her tale weaves together the stories of the people--some unknown; others soon to be famous--caught up in the disaster, the facts of the New York Express's fateful run, the fiery scenes in the creek ravine, and the subsequent legal, legislative, and journalistic search for answers to the question: what had happened at Angola, and why? The Angola Horror is a classic story of disaster and its aftermath, in which events coincide to produce horrific consequences and people are forced to respond to experiences that test the limits of their endurance. Vogel sets the Angola Horror against a broader context of the developing technology of railroads, the culture of the nation's print media, the public policy legislation of the post-Civil War era, and, finally, the culture of death and mourning in the Victorian period. The Angola Horror sheds light on the psyche of the American nation. The fatal wreck of an express train nine years later, during a similar bridge crossing in Ashtabula, Ohio, serves as a chilling coda to the story.


Cast of Charactersp. ix
Prologue: America on the Railsp. 1
1Troubled Sleepp. 11
2Angola at Dawnp. 24
3Getting Under Wayp. 37
4En Routep. 49
5Delaysp. 60
6Approachp. 73
7Breakingp. 89
8Fallingp. 92
9Horrorp. 104
10Rescuep. 119
11Recognitionsp. 132
12Reportsp. 147
13Mourningp. 162
14Judgingp. 180
15Debatesp. 190
16Changesp. 207
Epilogue: Lost Soulsp. 219
Postscript: After the Horrorp. 228
Author's Notep. 233
Notesp. 243
Bibliographyp. 273
Indexp. 283

Review by Choice Review

Journalist Vogel reconstructs the setting of an 1867 railroad wreck in northern Ohio that killed at least 50 people, and reconstructs the lives of some who died and others who survived, surprisingly including budding industrial magnate John D. Rockefeller. This was not the first train wreck with significant loss of lives in the US, and memory of it would soon be eclipsed in Ohio with the collapse of the Ashtabula bridge in 1878 in which 80 died, but it had widespread impact at the time. Vogel explores in depth that impact and the way it shaped Victorian thinking in the emerging industrial age to deal with industrial disasters--a hard-earned lesson, given the visual horrors this train wreck created. The book will have a wide readership far beyond the focused group of rail aficionados. Summing Up: Recommended. All public and undergraduate libraries. R. B. Clay emeritus, University of Kentucky

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

On the afternoon of December 18, 1867, as the Buffalo and Erie Railroad's New York Express passenger train hurtled eastward carrying several hundred holiday passengers, it derailed just east of Angola, N.Y., pitching two cars off a truss bridge into Big Sister Creek. In workmanlike and often gruesome detail, Vogel, a staff reporter at the Buffalo News, recreates the disaster-branded in America's imagination as "the Horror"-not only by retelling the moment-by-moment story of that tragic day, but also by reporting on the lives of the passengers, rail workers, and rescuers. We meet Dr. Romaine J. Curtiss, Angola's new doctor, who had practiced triage on the decks of an army hospital ship during the Civil War and brought those skills to helping the injured after the crash; the infant Minnie Fisher, whose miraculous survival offered a glimmer of hope on that dark day; and plenty of brave Angolans who rushed to help. Vogel also zooms out to consider how the wreck illuminated common American apprehensions and fears, of both the long road toward Reconstruction and the unpredictability of new technologies. Vogel's subject is an interesting one, but perhaps unworthy of a book-length work-tedious minutiae dampen the power of the narrative. Photos and illus. (Sept. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

On December 18, 1867, the New York Express train from Cleveland to Buffalo derailed in frigid temperatures at Angola, NY, resulting in horrific injuries and heavy loss of life. Vogel (staff reporter, Buffalo News) has written an exhaustive history of the accident. Using newspaper reports and other sources from the time, she profiles the trainmen, passengers, rescuers, and bystanders and describes in exacting detail the technological and social aspects of 19th-century train travel. Her narrative tracing the train's route builds suspense with every mile and station until the train meets its doom. While most of the passengers are forgotten today, one well-known individual just missed getting on the train in Cleveland: John D. Rockefeller. Vogel examines the news reporting in the aftermath of the wreck as well as the public reaction and mourning, the identification and disposal of the bodies, the assigning of blame, and the subsequent safety innovations. VERDICT This is history writing at its best, as Vogel immerses her readers in the event's 1867 context. Highly recommended, though some of the grisly descriptions may trouble some readers. Another excellent work on train disasters (but otherwise unrelated) is Gary Krist's White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche.-Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.